The Greatest Garage Sale In American History

When was the last time you took inventory of all the things in your garage, attic, storage locker, or basement? Is it possible you have a dust covered pile of money in there? Even though many of them do, it doesnít take a personal finance TV show host to tell you one simple way to pay down debt is to raise some quick cash with a garage sale. Those unused and forgotten items can often raise enough money to put the final nail in the coffin of bills that have been sticking to you for too long.

A garage sale can give you a sense of a clean start in a couple ways. First, you have cleaned out your house and may now have new space to use. A little bit of sprucing up in the freed space could even give an old house an inexpensive, but new and refreshed look. Secondly, the money you raise from your garage sale will give you the funds you need to finally pay off some of those smaller bills you have been longing to ditch. Wiping away even one bill for good will give you a renewed energy and refreshed feeling about your finances.

A garage sale doesnít have to be complicated. You wonít need a marketing budget or sales manager, and you are not competing with the JCPenny or Macyís Christmas sales. The website offers many great insights in both selling and buying at garage sales. There are basic strategies that can help maximize the amount of money you end up with. After taking a thorough and honest inventory of the things you no longer need or want and can sell think about how to market what you have. Remember one personís trash is another personís treasure. Display and talk about your trash with a treasure like tone.

One of Americaís greatest garage sales of all time can give us a great example of how a little marketing can raise a substantial amount of money for paying off debt. In 1815 Thomas Jefferson was facing massive debts late in his life and was tired of the related stress of managing it. In order to raise money to make a larger dent in the $46,000.00 he owed (about $500,000.00 in 2010 dollars) he decided to have his version of a garage sale. One thing he had was a huge library of nearly 6,500 books. By this time in his life he certainly had read many books and decided that these books could be used better some where else.

Jefferson decided to put the books up for sale and inquired if Congress would be interested in purchasing them. The timing of Jeffersonís sale was good for Congress as their own reference materials had been burned as a result of the British overrunning Washington DC during the War of 1812. In order to entice Congress into making the purchase Jefferson also sweetened the deal by organizing the books by categories of History, Philosophy, and Fine Arts. This interesting marketing tip can be used by anyone. Rather than putting everything into one pile arrange items in a more appealing manner and even include descriptions of the item and how it can be used.

The final vote to buy the books was not unanimous, but passed by 10 votes. On January 30, 1815, President James Madison approved this measure decided on by Congress. With the completion of this sale the Library of Congress was formed and started out as the library congressional members could use for research and education. Jefferson was paid $23,950.00 for all of his books which was estimated to be about 20% of their original value. Even so Jefferson was able to immediately eliminate half of his enormous debt.

So what do you have in your home that isnít being used anymore? Could that old saw cut your bills in half? Will those old prom shoes let you walk away from debt? Jefferson wasnít using those books anymore and was able to not only raise enough money to pay off half of his debt right away, but also helped create the Library of Congress! Also, remember that just like Jefferson didnít set up folding tables in the front yard of Monticello and put 6,500 books out for sale, you donít necessarily have to either. Today, you have more tools at your disposal then Jefferson had. Jefferson did not have Ebay or Craigslist. He didnít have ďTradioĒ or online newspaper classified ads. Making money off of your unwanted items has never been easier (or smarter).

KDKA Radio Tradio
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
The Yard Sale Queen

Thomas Jefferson: Passionate Pilgrim, The Presidency, the Founding of the University, and the Private Battle, Alf J. Mapp, p. 275

Sterling Biographies: Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Freedom, Rita Thievon Mullin, p.115
Quote source:

More stories: Duncan Hines   George Washington   Henry Ford   Benjamin Franklin   James Garfield   Harry Truman   Alexander Hamilton

The Quarter Roll is published to provide personal insights and opinions on everyday ways of saving and managing money, budgeting, and reducing debt. The Quarter Roll does not give professional accounting, legal, or investing counsel. The ideas, examples, and advice presented on this site are solely the opinion of the authors based on his or her personal experiences. All photos courtesy of The Quarter Roll, iStockphoto, or Dreamstime. © All rights reserved. This site is best viewed when using Adobe Flash Player. the quarter roll magazine financial entertainment